European human rights court criticizes Croatia for resistance of Afghan family

On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Croatia in the 2017 migrant restitution case, after which a 6-year-old girl was killed by a train on the border with Serbia.

Al-Husseini’s death in November 2017 focused international attention on the plight of migrants in the Balkans as they search for ways to reach Western Europe.

The court said that Croatian police officers returned Hussain and her family to Serbia without considering their individual situation, and thus carried out a mass deportation which was a violation of their rights. The train hit the girl shortly thereafter.

Massimo Moratti, Deputy Director of Europe at Amnesty International, called the ruling a “huge victory for justice” which “confirms consistent reports of large-scale pushbacks and abuses by Croatian police that have repeatedly been denied by the Croatian authorities”.

“Today’s decision sends a clear message to other European governments that mass expulsions and expulsions and denying people the opportunity to seek asylum are violations of the European Convention on Human Rights,” Moratti said.

“With asylum seekers currently stranded at the border in freezing temperatures, authorities in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia must take this into account.”

He was referring to the ongoing tensions on the European Union’s eastern border with Belarus where hundreds of migrants, including children, were stranded in freezing temperatures.

The court said that Croatia failed to properly investigate the 2017 incident and that the rights of the Hussain brothers were again violated when they returned to Croatia in 2018 and were placed in a center for asylum seekers.

“The children were in a particularly vulnerable position, as most of them witnessed the death of their sister near the border,” the ruling read.

The applicants are a family of 14 Afghan nationals, including a man, his wife and his eleven children. The court said the 2017 incident involved six children.

Thousands of people fleeing repression or violence in their home countries are still stranded in the Balkans while facing the heavily guarded borders of neighboring European Union countries. Croatia has faced several allegations of violence against migrants, but the authorities have denied systematic abuses of migrants.

The European Court ordered Croatia to pay 40,000 euros in damages to the applicants and 16,700 euros in costs and expenses.

The two sides have three months to request a review before the Grand Chamber of the Court.

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